The Los Angeles Rams have lost five straight games and hope to stop the bleeding at least for one week against the Seattle Seahawks. This is a matchup of teams that have shocked the league in completely different ways this season. LA is one of the NFL’s biggest disappointments while Seattle has surpassed even the lowest of offseason expectations.
Nothing about this year has gone according to plan for the Rams but they can take pride that they had swept the Seahawks on their championship run. They’re also quite familiar with Geno Smith as the journeyman stepped into action when the Dangerwich went down. I guess that counts for something.
With LA looking to put a dent in Seattle’s fading NFC West hopes, I spoke with John P. Gilbert from SB Nation’s Seahawks blog Field Gulls to gain more insight into L.A.’s opposition this weekend.
Q - To put it as mildly as possible, the Seahawks were dreadful on defense Sunday against the Raiders. They gave up 576 yards to Las Vegas, third-most in team history with 303 of them coming from Josh Jacobs. While I’m disappointed Jacobs could never perform that well on my fantasy teams, Seattle’s efforts were quite troubling. What is the most problematic area on defense and is there any chance of it being corrected in time with the Seahawks making a playoff push?
A - There is zero question that the defense has struggled at times this season, and in particular the front seven. During the team’s four game winning streak the front seven was stout against the run and was putting pressure on the quarterback. In back-to-back losses to the Bucs and Raiders, they were gashed in the run game and unable to generate any pressure on either Tom Brady or Derek Carr.
Whether or not they are able to address those two things in the coming weeks will go a long way towards determining whether or not they’re playing or on the couch Wild Card weekend.
Q - Geno Smith has been making everyone in Seattle forget that cheesy Subway spokesman he replaced. There have been many in the media waiting for Geno to revert back into a pumpkin just so they can write him off. Of course he hasn’t written back on that one either. What does Smith bring to the Seahawks offense that is different from Russell Wilson and what kind of limitations does he have that LA can exploit?
A - Smith plays within structure and is marking the proper reads necessary to deliver the ball on time. He’s consistently been very good this season, with the lone exception being a propensity to take sacks in situations where it is expected he will be throwing the ball. In particular, his sack rate on third and long is astronomical compared to the rest of the league, as that is when opposing defenses have looked to take advantage of the inexperience on the Seattle line, and rather than throw the ball away or dumping it off, he’s more often than not opted to take the sack.
Q - While Geno Smith has been one of the best stories of the NFL season, he can’t be the only one who has the Seahawks rumbling towards a potential postseason berth. Which player besides Smith would you consider a surprise contributor in 2022? Using the Uno reverse card in my hand, who would be considered a disappointment this season?
A - It’s hard to really call one of the biggest free agent acquisitions in recent seasons a surprise contributor, but that’s really the case with Uchenna Nwosu. There was certainly optimism that he could blossom into a quality player, but I certainly did not foresee him coming in and immediately leading the team in sacks, quarterback hits and contributing in coverage.
On the other side of the formation, the Hawks other outside linebacker Darrell Taylor has been almost invisible after an offseason of very high expectations. Taylor was near the leaders on the defense in pass rushing metrics in 2021, including sacks and quarterback hits, but has been almost invisible for much of this season.
Q - A lot has been said about Seattle’s rookie class which has helped them rebuild or reload faster than anyone anticipated. Who among them would be your MVP this year and why?
A - The rookie class MVP has likely got to be Tariq Woolen. He has stepped in and filled a position where rookies often struggle and he’s played not just competently, but fantastically. That is not to say there haven’t been some growing pains here and there, but in terms of a rookie stepping in and starting from day one, he has far, far exceeded the expectations for a Day 3 pick.
That’s certainly not to take anything away from either Charles Cross or Abe Lucas, who have performed far better than would be expected of most rookie tackles, or from Coby Bryant or Ken Walker, who have flashed at times, but Woolen has to this point been the top performer of the group.
Q - Draftkings Sportsbook has the Seahawks listed as 7.5-point favorites with an O/U of 41. How do you see this game going down and will the Hawks be able to end their two-game losing streak against the defending champs?
A - My brain says Seattle should be able to handle a Rams team that is a shell of itself due to injuries without too much trouble, while my heart keeps reminding me that the Hawks are 3-8 against LA since McVay was hired, so I’m worried Los Angeles will be able to pull off some kind of ridiculous upset.
I’m certainly taking the over because I think Geno will give the Rams defense fits in a way that Wilson didn’t with the Seahawks coming away with a convincing win.